Bavaria (Bayern) Emigration and Immigration

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For a comprehensive understanding of emigration and immigration records, study the article Germany Emigration and Immigration.

German immigrants, Quebec City, Canada, 1911.jpg

Emigration from Bavaria to the United States[edit | edit source]

From Bavaria most German emigrants originated, above all from the Palatine area. The reason for emigration was hunger. In Bavaria Anerbenrecht (inheritance law) was prevalent. This meant that farms were divided among heirs, leaving each with small parcels of land which could not support a family. Those who had emigrated before wrote letters of hope: in America it was possible through hard work to forge a stable existence.

For many, emigration was the opportunity of a lifetime but not easy to come by. The authorities did everything imaginable to thwart emigration efforts. Officials demanded proof of no debts or being released legally from guardianships, for instance.

How did one obtain a passport? In 1829 a potential emigrant could apply for permission to leave the country at the mayor’s office. The secretary forwarded such an application to the higher administration, called Bezirksamt. This office checked with the mayor’s office if taxes had been paid by the applicant which amounted to about 10% of a man’s monthly income. No man was able to leave the fatherland without completion of military duties or release from such. When this hurdle was taken, the next document to be produced was a visa from the consulate where the embarkation took place. At this point also, the authorities needed to see a document which ensured that a person or a family had a financial cushion to see them through the ordeal of resettlement. Afterwards, the proof of admission as US citizens had to be generated. Not everyone left according to official demands. In some instances, just as many or more left illegally.

Many emigrants chose to embark in the French harbor LeHavre. If emigrating legally, they chose to leave in groups rather than face the journey alone with good reasons. They were able to support each other in many ways, provide nourishment both physically and emotionally. Most emigrants from Bavaria arrived in New York, where they hoped to meet relatives or friends or from where they had better chances to reach their destinations. If emigrants arrived in New Orleans, they went by boat to St. Louis, from which they went further west. The later the emigrants arrived the further, westward they had to go in order to get land free of charge.

Online Sources

In an entry of the church records of Dreieichenhain is stated that in 1709 several thousand emigrants followed the invitation of Queen Anne to settle in England, Ireland and the New World (Carolina). Among the emigrants were 8589 people from the Pfalz (Palatine). More about this emigration wave can be read Wikipedia (Massenauswanderung der Pfälzer/1709)


Palatinate Mennonite Census Lists 1664-1793[edit | edit source]

The ancient “Kurpfalz” territory is not the same as the present-day “Pfalz” in German or “Palatinate” in English. The Kurpfalz territory included parts of the state of Baden on the east side of the Rhine River and parts of the present-day Palatinate, namely the former Oberämter (administrations) of Alzey, Neustadt, Lautern (Kaiserslautern), and Germersheim on the west side of the Rhine River. The state of Kurpfalz ended in 1801 under Napoleon of France. The Palatinate then became part of France and was named “Departement Mont Tonnere. In 1815, this territory fell to the Kingdom of Bavaria, and since World War II is known as “Rheinbayern” or “Bayrische Pfalz”.
The first Swiss-German Anabaptists or Mennonites immigrated to the Kurpfalz in 1664. After the 30 Years’ War the area was hugely depopulated and the religious refugees from Switzerland were encouraged to settle under certain conditions. They had to observe religious restrictions, pay protection fees and other obligations. In order to make sure everything went according to law, the Mennonites needed to register with the authorities at irregular intervals. Hence, censuses were taken in 1664, 1685, 1706, 1717, 1724, 1738, 1743, 1753, 1759, 1768, 1773, 1790, and 1793.

Not every subsequent sovereign upheld the protective rights for the people of a different creed and limited their growth so that especially young people were forced to leave. Many simply moved to a neighboring village if it belonged to a different sovereign, but most saw no other alternative than to pack up, travel down the Rhine and eventually make the voyage across the Atlantic to America.
The census lists were forwarded to the respective authorities (Oberämter). The genealogists Hermann and Gertrud Guth transcribed these lists and discovered that the Kurpfalz officials were not familiar with the Swiss-German names. Names were frequently spelled the way they thought they should be spelled causing some unusual deformities. Several surnames point to the origin of the person. Families had Lower German or Dutch origin. After 1671 family surnames from the Cantons of Aargau and Zurich appear in the former “Upper Palatinate” (the Kraichgau area southeast of Heidelberg). Bernese names were predominant in the Lower Palatinate (the area west of the Rhine River near the cities of Worms and Alzey.
In 1712 names of Amish Mennonites from the Canton Berne appeared primarily in the southern part of the Palatinate. These families arrived after they were expelled from the city of St. Marie-aux-Mines (Markirch) in Alsace where they had first settled after leaving their Swiss homeland.

The list of family and village names are available in book or fiche format call number 943 X2g or 6001862 pt. 1-2 at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City Utah, International Floor.


Guth, Hermann and Gertrud Mennonite Census Lists 1664-1793. Mennonite Family History, Elverson PA, 1987.

A wiki article describing an online collection is found at:

Germany, Bavaria, Furth City Directories and Emigration Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)

Germany Nationwide Records Websites[edit | edit source]

  • German Emigrant Data Base,covers 1820-1939, main source: New York passenger lists beginning in 1820, supplemented by material found in Germany, ($)

U.S. and German Passenger Lists and Indexes[edit | edit source]